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‘Is This P.R.?’ What the Business Roundtable Pledge Really Means to Tech

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In light of a recent pledge by 181 corporate leaders to expand their priorities beyond driving shareholder value, several big technology companies have said they fully support the new standards. But don’t expect a major shift in corporate culture—many of the firms say the agreement doesn’t really change the way they operate.

Earlier this week, the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs for some of the nation’s largest companies, pledged to run their businesses in the interest of all stakeholders, including employees, suppliers, and the surrounding community. The agreement signaled a shift from the more traditional business practice of placing shareholder value above all else.

Leaders from tech companies including Apple, Amazon, Salesforce, Oracle, and Cisco all signed the pledge. And though they are not part of the Business Roundtable, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Intel also say they support the philosophy, and carry it out by doing things like tying employee compensation to specific goals or releasing progress reports on environmental impact or social responsibility.

But the Business Roundtable agreement raised all sorts of new questions about how companies will push the needle forward with the new commitment. For example, will they review all wage practices to ensure fair and balanced pay? Will they agree to stop using offshore bank accounts? Would they tie executive compensation to improvements in their carbon footprint? Might they opt for a product feature that will benefit consumers or society, even if it’s not the best for the company’s bottom line?

Overall: Does this agreement mean businesses promise to begood corporate citizens?

“It really is kind of a wait and see,” says David Larcker, director of the Corporate Governance Research Institute at Stanford University. “Is this P.R., or is this substantive where things are going to change?”

For true change, Larcker said that the change has to start with the board. The board, which likely has to bring other stakeholders like employees to the table, now has to evaluate the company across a broad spectrum of goals versus solely on financial performance. In some cases, that could mean shareholder value would decline as the company invests in other priorities like environmental impact.

“There’s likely to be an economic tradeoff, and everyone needs to be prepared to understand what that is,” Larcker says.

Cisco, which signed the Business Roundtable pledge, suggested the agreement is less about change and more about formalizing commitments to standards that companies may already have in place.

“Cisco and many other companies have been taking action towards balancing the interests of all stakeholders for some time,” said a Cisco spokesperson. “This statement now reflects the way in which our companies do—and should—operate.”

For example, Cisco said it has entire teams dedicated to things like environmental impact and supply chain, and those people’s evaluations, bonuses, and promotions are tied to specific goals.

Intel similarly releases reports on things like employee satisfaction and social impact. It also has linked executive and employee compensation to corporate responsibility since 2008. That includes evaluating environmental impacts and employee diversity factors, the company said.

Following the announcement of the Business Roundtable pledge, Microsoft President Brad Smith took to Twitter in support of the agreement and suggesting that his company has always operated this way.

Along with releasing transparency reports, Microsoft has a board committee responsible for overseeing issues related to environmental sustainability, culture, and the company’s employees among other things. That board works with management to review Microsoft’s policies and performance.

Google, meanwhile, has long touted that it has always managed for the long-term and not for short-term shareholder priorities. This means also prioritizing its users, sticking to its mantra, ”don’t do evil,” and maintaining a culture high-risk, high reward projects, including allowing employees to spend 20% of their time working on creative projects.

“Google is not a conventional company,” reads a letter to shareholders from Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin leading up to the company’s 2004 initial public offering. “We do not intend to become one.”

And though all of these tech companies have committed to running their companies for the betterment of their customers, employees, and the world at large, they haven’t exactly maintained a squeaky clean image.

Google, for example, has been scrutinized for reportedly planning to develop a censored search engine for China, mishandling sexual misconduct allegations, and its dual-class voting structure that gives founders and top executives the ultimate voting power. Similarly, Microsoft has been criticized for an alleged sexist culture that included claims of sexual harassment of female employees. And Cisco was accused of helping the Chinese government run surveillance on its citizens.

So while the belief that shareholder takes priority is clearly dying off, what’s really changing? In Larcker’s words, the commitment is ”worth watching; it’s not revolutionary.”

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A rare tech company where women dominate
—Walmart CEO: VR training helped save lives in the El Paso shooting
—Can Apple afford to make its streaming video service free?
—How to compete with technology in the age of automation
Disney’s streaming service won’t be available on the most popular streaming devices
Catch up with Data Sheet, Fortune‘s daily digest on the business of tech.





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Inspired by Swedish teen, worldwide protest demands climate action

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(Reuters) – Millions of young people flooded the streets of cities around the world on Friday to demand political leaders take urgent steps to stop climate change, uniting in a worldwide protest inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

Alarmed by images of the Greenland ice sheets melting and the Amazon rain forests burning, students and workers abandoned schools, shops and offices in nearly every corner of the globe, aiming to stop what they see as a looming environmental catastrophe.

The protests started in the Pacific islands, where rising sea levels threaten a way of life, and followed the rising sun across Australia, Japan, Southeast Asia and on to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. The coordinated student “strike” culminated in New York’s Wall Street, where some investors have embraced the fossil fuel industry.

Massive crowds overwhelmed the streets of lower Manhattan, letting out roars of “Save our planet!” while anticipating an address by Thunberg, who soared to prominence after sailing across the Atlantic in an emissions-free yacht ahead of next week’s climate summit at the United Nations.

“Right now we are the ones who are making a difference. If no one else will take action, then we will,” Thunberg told demonstrators in New York.

“We demand a safe future. Is that really too much to ask?” she said.

Demonstrators in Paris raised a painting of Thunberg as the Virgin Mary, a halo around her head reading, “Our house is on fire.

“She’s like the icon of our generation,” New York protester Fiamma Cochrane, 17, said of Thunberg, highlighting the leadership role of young people in the international cry to reduce consumption of fossil fuels.

For Jane Willis, a 62-year-old high school English teacher and playwright, the students offered a ray of hope even as the recreational area of her own youth, Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, was polluted by pesticides.

“My heart feels two ways,” Willis said, surveying the crowd. “Half of it is breaking, and half of it just feels really buoyed up, I feel hopeful.”

Worldwide concern has escalated since U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the international Paris Accord on climate change and took a series of steps to dismantle environmental protections, including moving on Thursday to block stricter vehicle emissions standards in California.

Demonstrators in Thailand stormed into the environment ministry and feigned death, while activists in Berlin and Munich re-enacted gallows, standing on melting blocks of ice with nooses around their necks to symbolize the death that awaits them when the polar ice caps melt.

Others in Warsaw staged a performance of people drowning in a sea of plastic waste.

“The planet is getting hotter than my imaginary boyfriend,” read a poster held by a teenager in Thailand.

“Make love, not CO2” signs were spotted in Berlin and Vienna.

Three million people had participated worldwide as of midday in New York, organizers with the anti-fossil fuels group 350 said.

Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg takes part in a demonstration as part of the Global Climate Strike in lower Manhattan in New York, U.S., September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

While Europeans filled the streets, students in the Solomon Islands gathered at the rising ocean water’s edge wearing traditional grass skirts. The issue is vital to low-lying Pacific islands, which have repeatedly asked wealthier nations to do more to prevent rising sea levels.

‘THERE IS NO PLANET B’

Global warming caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels has already led to droughts and heat waves, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and floods, according to scientists.

“There is no Planet B,” read a sign hoisted by a young woman in London.

In Kenya, around 500 activists marched to demand that the government cancel plans for a controversial coal plant and investigate corruption in hydropower dams.

“In Samburu there is a lot of heat, the grass has dried up, there is little water,” said Francis Lentel, a young herdsman in traditional beads, holding a picture of the Earth weeping.

The protest movement is putting increasing pressure on both governments and companies to respond.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel unveiled a major new climate protection package thrashed out by parties in her coalition during all-night talks.

Private industry has also responded. Amazon.com Inc Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos on Thursday pledged to make the largest U.S. e-commerce company net carbon neutral by 2040.

Slideshow (34 Images)

Hundreds of workers from Google, Amazon and other technology companies on Friday criticized their industry for being slow to tackle climate change and joined marches in San Francisco and Seattle calling for action.

“Tech is having an awakening,” said Google business analyst Marie Collins.

The U.N. summit next week brings together world leaders to discuss climate change mitigation strategies, such as transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, among the world’s only national leaders who publicly question climate science, are not due to take part, their representatives said.

Reporting by Hans Lee in Sydney, Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, Fabrizio Bensch in Berlin and Ilze Filks in Stockholm Hans Lee in Sydney; Additional reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat in Bangkok, Byron Kaye in Sydney, Sonali Paul in Melbourne, Katharine Houreld in Nairobi, Gabriella Borter in New York, Liz Hampton in Houston, Lindsey Wasson in Seattle and Kate Munsch in San Francisco; Writing by Jonathan Barrett, Stephen Coates, Alex Richardson and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Will Dunham, Lincoln Feast,; Janet Lawrence, Mike Collett-White and Daniel Wallis



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Newsletter: Stripe, Amazon & the Fed

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FE International Newsletter September 20, 2019: Stripe, Amazon & the Fed

Hello and welcome to the FE International newsletter bringing you most important updates in the world of online business. Following a week of announcements at Stripe Sessions, the SaaS payments leader has announced it is raising $250 million to continue its powerful growth trajectory. Stripe’s new valuation of $35 billion for this round of fundraising represents a 55% increase from where it was valued during its last fundraising round earlier this year.

This week, the e-commerce world is seeing Amazon test a new product feedback process by way of one-tap ratings. The new review feature is Amazon’s attempt to drive up the number of shoppers who leave useful reviews, as this is a driving force behind product sales for merchants on the platform. For now, a select group of Amazon customers will have access to the feature, which will be made available from a variety of places including “Your Orders” and “Write a Review.” While this is likely to encourage the number of positive reviews merchants see due to varying levels of motivation to write positive vs negative reviews, merchants should be attuned and respond to low-star reviews inquiring after why.

Our friend David Hauser, the founder of Grasshopper, just launched his first book Unstoppable: 4 Steps to Transform Your Life. If you’ve heard of Grasshopper, you know David has no problem reaching his business goals. But after years of diet and exercise, he couldn’t get a grip on his health goals — until he started applying business principles to his own body and mind. This book gives you the framework he used to succeed. To celebrate the launch, follow the link on the FE blog to grab a copy for under $1 until Monday.

Finally, international news saw French President Macron commit a €5 Billion Investment from insurers and asset managers in French technology startups. The funding comes from c.40 venture capital firms and funds in the country, with the goal of creating 25 or more €1 billion French technology companies by 2025. Recent tax cuts had not proven effective enough to help burgeoning startups, which brought about this new initiative which, according to Macron, is intended to “create [France’s] champions.”

New in FE exclusive App listings this week we have a Wellness and Improvement App Portfolio listed at the $288,000 price point. This diverse portfolio of c.140 mobile apps has garnered millions of lifetime users due to its effectiveness and popularity. With over 2.7 million lifetime downloads and an incredibly high product rating of 4.7 stars, this business has seen steady revenue growth of around 187.5% compound annual growth rate over the 2015 to 2018 period. Please follow the link above to request a prospectus.

In events news, we are pleased to present the first in a series of “HOW TO” online business meetups, How to Build an 8-Figure Technology Business panel event! Join CEO Ismael Wrixen, Founder Thomas Smale and the FE team to hear from expert panelists who have built successful technology businesses and are ready to share their proven skills. Ticket Tailor Founder Jonny White and SaaStock Founder and CEO Alex Theuma, among others, speak on the panel before we open the floor for no-pitch networking with the fellow founders, entrepreneurs and investors in attendance. Doors open at 6pm, so make sure to head over to the Technology Entrepreneur Meetup page hosted by FE International to RSVP!

Thanks for tuning into this week’s top stories. For more updates throughout the week you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel so you never miss an update! From all of us at FE, we’ll see you next week.

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Tamyra Mensah-Stock dominates to win first wrestling world title | NBC Sports

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American Tamyra Mensah-Stock knocks off Anna Fransson of Sweden and has a victory lap for the ages to celebrate becoming a world champion #NBCSports #TamyraMensahStock

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Tamyra Mensah-Stock dominates en route to first wrestling world title | NBC Sports

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